Scenic drives in the Smokies
With gas prices lower than we have seen in years, it’s the perfect time to pack the car and enjoy a beautiful scenic drive through the Smokies! The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a wide variety of these drives—from long, leisurely trails to narrow, winding mountain passes—so every day of your vacation can be an exciting new adventure! Although you are welcome to get out and explore the park’s motorways for yourself, we especially invite you to make time for these three favorites:
- Cades Cove Loop Road
With some of the best opportunities for spotting wildlife in the park and rich historical roots dating back to the early 19th century, Cades Cove has become one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A paved, 11-mile loop road allows you to explore this section of the park either in your car or on your bike. While cruising, you are likely to spot large numbers of white-tailed deer as well as black bears, coyotes, ground hogs, and turkeys. You can also pause to view centuries-old churches, barns, log cabins, and a working grist mill; or park the car and enjoy the popular 5-mile hike to Abrams Falls.
- Newfound Gap Road
One of the most unique experiences of the Smokies can be yours when you tour the paved, 33-mile road up to Newfound Gap. At an elevation of 5,046 feet, this gap is the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains, and the road leading to it allows you to experience a variety of ecosystems, as if you were driving all the way from Georgia to Maine! On this short drive, you will see everything from pine-oaks to evergreens, and you may even see snow! On average, 69 inches of snow falls in the gap each year, and visitors often use this opportunity for cross-country skiing in the area. If you’re feeling adventurous, Newfound Gap also provides you access to the 7-mile road to Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the Smokies.
- Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Slow down a little and enjoy the leisurely pace of the 5.5-mile winding road that runs alongside Roaring Fork. Named for the impressive sound it makes after a hard rain, Roaring Fork is one of the largest and fastest-flowing mountain streams in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As you travel this trail, you will admire not only the rushing stream but also old-growth forests, well-preserved log cabins, and other historic buildings located throughout the park. One must-see is the Ogle homestead, which features a self-guided walking tour of an authentic mountain farm. The trail also provides you access to one of the most visited waterfalls in the park, Rainbow Falls. Keep in mind that this hike is 5.4 miles and is considered moderately strenuous.